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Georgia Southern reaches milestones
Georgia Southern University President Bruce Grube, right, recognizes the contributions of music professor Michael Braz by presenting him with a Presidents Medal during Wednesday's convocation ceremony at the Fine Arts Center. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Georgia Southern could see record enrollment this year as the school may crack the 17,000 student mark for the 2007-2008 academic year.
    President Bruce Grube told faculty and staff at the school's annual convocation that while official numbers won't be determined until October, it's likely the university will have its largest class in history.
    Last year's enrollment was 16,425. The previous high was 16,646 set in 2005.
    And while the number of students is higher, the average SAT score for incoming freshman is also increasing again, Grube said, by three to five points.
    "Once again, we're enrolling the most highly qualified freshman class in Georgia Southern history," he said.
    Grube said the incoming freshman class's SAT scores this year will be between 1107 to 1109, up from the 987 it was when Grube first started at Georgia Southern nine years ago.
    Also, the university will reach a third milestone this year as the school's retention rate will be at 80 percent, which was one of Grube's goals since he became president. When he first arrived, the retention rate was at 69 percent.
    Linda Bleicken, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the start of a new school year is always exciting and, unlike businesses, is an opportunity to start over.
    "We start each year with a brand new bunch of freshman who may have preconceptions about what college is all about, but we can model behavior for them that that will hopefully help them to grow to be productive members of society," she said. "Working together, we have the power to transform lives."
    Grube said convocation is one of his favorite times of the year because of the excitement on campus among the faculty and staff as well as the new students who are arriving at the school.
    "This is a vibrant, exciting time," he said.
    Also at Wednesday's convocation, Dr. Michael Braz was awarded the President's Medal, only the third time in the school's history it has been bestowed.
    Braz, a music professor at Georgia Southern, was given the honor for his dedication and service to the university, including musical performances at commencement ceremonies, Georgia Southern Foundation events. His most recent contribution to the school was writing an opera entitled "A Scholar Under Siege" that chronicles the fight between Governor Eugene Talmadge and Georgia Southern President Marvin Pittman in the 1940s.
    Braz said he was "speechless" after receiving the honor.
    "I'm very appreciative of all the support, not only for the opera, but for all of the projects I've worked on," he said.
    He received a standing ovation from the faculty and staff when he was announced as the recipient.
    Also Wednesday, six faculty members were recognized as winning the Faculty Awards of Excellence. Dr. Michael Nielson and Bruce Schulte were given awards for excellence in service while Dr. Patricia Humphrey and Jeffrey Orvis were recognized for excellence in contributions to instruction. Dr. Sophie George and Dr. Xiao-Jun Wang were recognized for their excellence in research/creative scholarly activity.
    Following Grube's state of the university address, a video recapping the 100 year history of Georgia Southern was shown.
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